Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bicycles in the City: Licence and Insure !

Fuel is up again. Bicycles are looking better, for both financial and health reasons. But with the convenience of a bicycle comes responsibility. How many times have I heard or read of a bicycle rider mowing down a pedestrian. Kyle Smith, a columnist for the New York Post brought the point home quite capably in his column today in the New York Post. He was himself knocked over by a bicyclist who screamed verbal abuse at him for refracting the trajectory of a moving bicycle with his body mass. In the first two paragraphs of his article on dangerous cyclists, Smith was able to cite three additional New York Post editorial staffers who are currently nursing injuries involving a collective combination of crutches, a broken rib and serious abrasions. Clearly this problem is not anecdotal.

Clearly we are not dealing with an anomalous cluster of freak accidents. There are two problems that contribute to "bicycle madness". One problem is that there are no codified and publicised rules for bicyclists. We need to have a strip of large roads in which bicyclists have the right of way. Beyond this, it should be made clear that bicycles must obey all traffic laws that apply to cars and motorcycles. Bicycle riders should be required to have a licence identifying them and to insure their bicycles. There should be plates identifying a bicycle and engraved identification numbers to deter bicycle theft. There should be mandatory insurance covering injury and property damage as well as theft. Most importantly, a cyclist should be required to remain at the scene of an accident and wait for law enforcement. Failure to do so should result in the same penalties as would be incumbent upon a fleeing motorist. There should be special penalties for assaulting or threatening someone who is party to an accident involving a bicycle.

All these measures are common sense. By combining these measures with helmet requirements and safety training, the safety of bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists could be vastly improved. The city could also collect taxes and fees for regulating cyclists that could be used to make them safer on city streets.

In general, I am very critical of the city's attempt to fund raise through ticketing. Some fines have been cranked up to almost extortionate levels. I think that the New York City is harassing people with parking ticket blitzes as well as excessive sanitation ticketing. But moving violations are another story. As much as I dislike summonses, the fear of fines and points on one's licence saves lives.

Make no mistake about it. A 160 pound object hurtling down the street at 30 miles an hour can maim or kill. Anyone riding a bicycle should have the same sense of responsibility for public welfare as is felt by a motorist. Anyone who labours under the illusion that they are operating a harmless toy needs a serious wake up call.

I normally take Mayor Bloomberg to task for the eagerness with which he seems to tax and fine the citizens of New York City. But bicycles involve pressing questions of public safety. And if Bloomberg wants to raise a few bucks for the city from this , then that's fine by me. Sphere: Related Content

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